Psalm 46: Be Still

A short jetty and a peaceful lake

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psalm 46:1-11 (NRSV)

Psalm 46 reflects on God’s might and power above a world of tumult. Though ” “mountains tremble”, the “waters roar and foam”, the nations be “in an uproar” and “kingdoms totter”, our mighty God is more powerful than all of these things. But it is also a message of care for God’s people: “the God of Jacob is our refuge”, and these words are said to have inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.

Verse 10 had a profound effect on my life recently. “Be still, and know that I am God!”

A few months ago, I was praying during a time when I had several complex, stressful issues on my mind. I couldn’t focus, and my mind kept jumping around from one thing to another, with half-formed thoughts and supplications to God. I had so much to worry about and fix and be responsible for. I knew that I needed God’s help… but it was just so hard to pray coherently.

It was then that the words of Psalm 46:10 ran through my mind. “Be still and know that I am God!” There was nothing in my thoughts that led up to it—just the same mess of anxiety and stress that I’d been feeling for days—but when those words hit my brain, I felt as if all the stress were just fading away, leaving me with a profound peace. I sensed that God had my problems in His mind, and that He was saying to me “don’t worry – I’ve got this. There’s time to deal with all of it, and I’m with you”.

The word translated “still” in most English translation is the Hebrew “râpâ” which means to relax, to let go, or to cease striving… and I believe this was the message that God had for me. He wanted me to be still in His presence, so that He could be with me without all my issues and anxieties getting in the way. He wanted me to be still, so that He could be my refuge.

Since that time, I’ve come back to Psalm 46 often, and verse 10 continues to have an impact on me. Stressful situations still arise for me (just like everyone else), but God’s word has created something new for me—a mental space of stillness and calm that I can go to when I need to recover the peace that God gives me.

It’s the place where I feel that God is my refuge.

Search Me, Oh God

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalms 139:23,24 (NKJV)

Around the beginning of the year, many of us feel drawn to a certain degree of introspection and self-review. Some of us have had some time off work or school… perhaps we’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family that we might not have seen in a while. Things like this seem to prompt us to have a bit of a think about how our lives are going.

I’ve been posting on this blog since December 2013 (with some significant gaps, admittedly), and looking over some of the things I’ve written over the year has been an interesting exercise.

Towards the end of 2013, I was doing some fervent study and prayer centered on the book of James, and that’s what I started with in this blog. It was an important exercise for me, because I was really searching for practical applications of Christianity in my daily life – how to really live every day as a Christian.

I also talked about having God’s Word written on my heart, witnessing (and my fear of it), and practical, working faith. These were simply me sharing some of the things I was learning in my study of God’s Word, and I pray and trust that people reading those articles were blessed by them. I’d also suggest that they reveal something about my spiritual progress over the past year or so.

A certain amount of self-examination is a healthy thing. Taking the time to simply sit and contemplate how things are going in our lives is something that we may not always find it easy to do. And if we don’t occasionally have a good look at ourselves, internal issues can go unresolved for long periods, until they’re too much for us to handle.

On the other hand, too much introspection – looking at ourselves all the time, to the exclusion of everything else – is self-centred. We lose sight of what’s going on around, and become remote and cut off from people and things around us.

Clearly, balance is key, but I think most of all, we need to be aware that the One who knows us best of all is God. In Psalm 139, David recognises this when he says:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. – Psalm 139:1-4

God knows us better than we know ourselves, so self-examination is good and healthy (in moderation), but it will always be limited by our human imperfection. God’s view of us is perfect – He knows our true needs and the true desires of our hearts.

As we review the past and plan to the future, it’s important that we seek His guidance. Not only does he understand us completely, but His desire for us is absolutely for our ultimate happiness. Sometimes our limitations prevent us from seeing this, but it is at these times that it is most important to trust Him.

God’s blessings to all for 2015.